THE sale of AFTA’s Sydney head office premises last year has set the organisation up for a sustainable long-term future, with a windfall gain from the growth in the CBD property market enabling placement of $5 million in an investment fund as well as a significant boost in consumer marketing to further raise awareness of the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS). The financial successes were revealed as part of the 2018 AFTA Annual Report, which detailed total revenue for the organisation of about $2.2 million and a one-off surplus of just over $400,000.
The additional income was allocated to further consumer engagement campaigns including “above the line television and radio advertising to promote ATAS accredited travel agents”, with AFTA recording a notional surplus of about $7,000 for year-to-year comparison purposes. CEO Jayson Westbury said “AFTA is in a very strong financial position… with capacity to invest in a sustained program of consumer engagement — something that members have been asking for over many years”.
“ATAS continues to thrive and has more and more become valued by all stakeholders as the mark of professionalism and trust,” he said. Despite a small number of insolvencies over the past 12 months, including a few ATAS participants, “we remain confident that the deregulated industry is the best setting to enable entrepreneurship and success, and we do not see any reason to approach government for change. In fact, the very opposite — we are engaging with government to ensure that they all understand the specific nature of the challenges that have been faced over the last year, and to give comfort that the travel industry remains robust,” Westbury wrote.
He noted that ATAS awareness was at an all-time high, with participants increasingly benefiting from the free mediation service offered as part of membership. ATAS hit a record high of accredited entities in 2018, with a steady rate of new applications. There is an exceptionally strong desire from new industry entrants to gain ATAS accreditation, the AFTA CEO added, noting that about a quarter of prospective participants were knocked back during the year, and there were also several “voluntary withdrawals” from the scheme. Westbury also highlighted the growth in take-up of the ACS Chargeback Scheme, which had become a “central point of confidence for members”. With about 430 participants so far, ACS membership continues to grow as agencies recognised the key benefit of protection from credit card chargebacks, no ongoing fees and competitive merchant rates.